Monday Evening Book Club November Selection

And after the fireThe Monday Evening Drop-In Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on November 18 in the second floor Training Room to discuss the novel  And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer.

About the book …

Susanna has the perfect New York City life: a great job, a loving husband and a beautiful apartment. But when a random act of violence tears it apart, she’s left to pick up the pieces alone. Just as she begins to feel whole again, her beloved Uncle Henry commits suicide—leaving behind a cryptic note that alludes to his haunting WWII experience as an Allied soldier in Germany . . . and something he took from the devastated country before returning home.

The daughter of the king’s Jewish banker, Sara is among the elite of Enlightenment-era Berlin. Beautiful, intelligent and a gifted pianist, she hones her musical talents under Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, son of Johann Sebastian Bach. They share a special bond, but while her life is just beginning, his is coming to an end. On his deathbed, Wilhelm bequeaths Sara the score of one of his father’s cantatas. Sara is stunned to see its violently anti-Semitic lyrics. Why did her beloved want her to have this horrifying document?

Weaving together the stories of Susanna and Sara, Lauren Belfer creates a majestic narrative that spans lifetimes and continents, encompassing both the best and the worst of the human spirit. The cantata’s troubled, riveting journey reveals that the two women have more in common than the score, and what Susanna learns may be the thing that can, finally, allow her to heal and move on.

About the author …

Lauren Belfer was born in Rochester, New York, and grew up in Buffalo, where she attended the Buffalo Seminary. At Swarthmore College, she majored in Medieval Studies. After graduating, she worked as a file clerk at an art gallery, a paralegal, an assistant photo editor at a newspaper, a fact checker at magazines, and as a researcher and associate producer on documentary films. She has an M.F.A. from Columbia University.

Lauren decided to become a writer when she was six years old. By the time she was in high school, her literary work was receiving rejection letters from all the best publications. Her first published short story was rejected forty-two times before it found an editor who loved it. Her second published story was rejected only twenty-seven times.

Her debut novel, City of Light, was a New York Times bestseller, as well as a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal Best Book, and a Main Selection of the Book of the Month Club. City of Light was a bestseller in Great Britain and has been translated into six languages.

Her second novel, A Fierce Radiance, was named a Washington Post Best Novel of 2010 and an NPR Best Mystery of 2010.

Her third novel, And After the Fire, received a 2016 National Jewish Book Award.

Belfer’s fiction has also been published in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, and Henfield Prize Stories. Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post Book World, the Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere.

She lives in New York City.

A Conversation with Lauren Belfer

An interview with the author (Laurenbelfer.com)

Reading Group guide

Awards and reviews

Real People and Places in And After the Fire

Music from the novel

Was J.S. Bach anti-Semitic? A CBC Radio/Sunday edition interview

A Literary Couple grapple with Bach and his God (NYTimes article)

History of Anti-Semitism (Wikipedia)

Monday Evening Book Club October Selection

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael FinkelThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, October 7 in Forsyth Hall to discuss The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel.

About the book

Many people dream of escaping modern life. Most will never act on it—but in 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight did just that when he left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the woods. He would not have a conversation with another person for the next twenty-seven years.

Drawing on extensive interviews with Knight himself, journalist Michael Finkel shows how Knight lived in a tent in a secluded encampment, developing ingenious ways to store provisions and stave off frostbite during the winters. A former alarm technician, he stealthily broke into nearby cottages for food, books, and supplies, taking only what he needed but sowing unease in a community plagued by his mysterious burglaries. Since returning to the world, he has faced unique challenges—and compelled us to reexamine our assumptions about what makes a good life. By turns riveting and thought-provoking, The Stranger in the Woods gives us a deeply moving portrait of a man determined to live his own way. (Publisher)

About the author

A hermit’s lonely path: an interview with Michael Finkel

‘There have always existed people who’ve simply wanted to be alone’: an interview with Michael Finkel

Review in The Globe and Mail 

Review in The Guardian

Review in the New York Times

This reclusive life: what I learned about solitude from my time with hermits

Hermitary: hermits around the web

 

Monday Evening Book Club September Selection

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fineThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, September 9 in Forsyth Hall to discuss the novel Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Scottish author Gail Honeyman.

About the book

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .
The only way to survive is to open your heart. (Source: Publisher)

About the author

Publisher’s Readers Guide (includes discussion questions)

Discussion questions & hosting tips (BookBub)

A Guardian interview

A Conversation with Gail Honeyman (Penguin Random House)

Video interviews with Gail Honeyman

A Guardian book review

An Irish Times book review

An Independent article on loneliness in young people

A US News article on youth loneliness in the U.S.

 

 

 

 

Monday Evening Book Club June Selection

Sofie and CeciliaThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, June 10 in the 2nd floor Training Room to discuss the novel Sofie & Cecilia by Katherine Ashenburg.

About the book

In Sofie & Cecilia, beloved non-fiction author and journalist Katherine Ashenburg draws upon her formidable skill and maturity as a writer to craft an extraordinary and splendid debut novel. This is the story of a lifelong female friendship, set in the fascinating art world of Sweden between 1900 and 1940, just as modern art and the beginnings of the Scandinavian mid-century modern design movement were inspiring a creative revolution across northern Europe. Loosely based on the lives of celebrated artists Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn (“Nils Olsson” and “Lars Vogt” in the novel), Ashenburg transports us behind both the public and domestic scenes–and canvasses–of these larger-than-life men to reveal the lesser-known but equally astounding and rich stories of the women who married them: restlessly creative artist-in-her-own-right Sofie Olsson, and fiercely private and intelligent curator Cecilia Vogt.
Here is a gorgeous gem of a book: surprising, unique, layered with insight into the nuances of female friendship as it stretches, changes, and deepens in unexpected ways over a lifetime. Woven effortlessly through this tapestry, like a beautiful motif, is absorbing detail about Scandinavian painting, design, and textile work; European history and sexual politics; the country life, city salons, vibrant art, and folklore of Sweden; and the secrets and challenges of bright, talented women juggling marriage, career, individual aspirations, and family life inside an artist’s household in the early twentieth century. (amazon.ca)

About the author

Author website

A CBC radio Next Chapter interview

A Global News interview

A CBC Books interview

Book review in Quill & Quire

Book review by literarytreats.com

Author essay on writing her first novel in her 70’s

Karin Larsson artist biography

Carl Larsson artist biography

Emma Zorn biography

Anders Zorn artist biography

 

Monday Evening Book Club May Selection

The Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, May 6 in the 2nd floor Aquarium to discuss the novel Washington Black by Esi Edugyan.

Washington BlackAbout the book

From the author of the award-winning international best seller Half-Blood Blues comes a dazzling new novel, about a boy who rises from the ashes of slavery to become a free man of the world.

George Washington Black, or “Wash,” an eleven-year-old field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is terrified to be chosen by his master’s brother as his manservant.

To his surprise, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist.

Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning—and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human.

But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, Christopher and Wash must abandon everything. What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic.

What brings Christopher and Wash together will tear them apart, propelling Wash even further across the globe in search of his true self.

From the blistering cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, from the earliest aquariums of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black tells a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again, and asks the question, What is true freedom? (From the publisher.)

About the author

Esi Edugyan is a Canadian novelist, born and raised in Calgary, to Ghanaian immigrant parents. She studied creative writing at the University of Victoria and Johns Hopkins University before publishing her debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, in 2004.

Despite favourable reviews for her first novel, Edugyan had difficulty securing a publisher for her second fiction manuscript. She spent some time as a writer-in-residence in Stuttgart, Germany, which inspired her to write another novel, Half-Blood Blues, about a mixed-race jazz musician in World War II-era Europe who is abducted by the Nazis as a “Rhineland Bastard.”

Published in 2011, Half-Blood Blues was shortlisted for that year’s Man Booker Prize, Scotiabank Giller Prize, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and Governor General’s Award for English language fiction. She was one of two Canadian writers, alongside Patrick deWitt, to make all four award lists in 2011. On November 8, 2011 she won the Giller Prize. Again, alongside deWitt, Half-Blood Blues was also shortlisted for the 2012 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction. In April 2012, Half-Blood Blues also won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.

In 2018, Edugyan released Washington Black, which was long-listed for that year’s Man Booker Prize. It won the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Edugyan is the first author to win the Giller Prize for back-to-back novels.

Edugyan lives in Victoria, British Columbia, and is married to novelist and poet Steven Price. (From Wikipedia.)

Q & A with Esi Edugyan about Washington Black

The Tichborne case: Esi Edugyan’s original inspiration for the novel

On Barbados, the First Black Slave Society 

Washington Black review (Washington Post)

Washington Black review (Irish Times)

Washington Black review (New Yorker)

Esi Edugyan is the winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize